By: Kim Jones

His face softens. “When I told you this was something I had to do, I meant it. I needed something. It took me six hundred and thirty-seven days to get it. Now that I have it, it means nothing without you.”

Dropping his voice, he promises, “You will never be second, gorgeous. Not to me. That’s why they’re all here. So there’s no mistaking where my loyalties lie or what order my priorities are in. You first. Club second. Or if you want it to just be you, then I’ll hand them my patch right now. Either way, it will always be you, Carmen.”

My lips tremble. “You’d do that? For me?”

“I’d do anything for you.”

I’m sure Emily thinks I’m crazy for not flying from my seat and kissing this handsome devil. She probably wonders how anyone could hesitate and not take this man at his word. But Emily wasn’t the one who spent the past two months crying herself to sleep. She’s not the one who’s been burned. Or has trust issues. So I’m sure she’ll never understand what I say next.

“Then prove it.”

The moment the words slip past my lips, his hands are fisted in leather. There is no sadness or loss in his eyes as he pulls the cut from his shoulders. Only triumph. Happiness. Love. He looks at me like I’m his greatest achievement. And he’s anxious to throw away something he’s worked so hard for, just to get me in return. Because he loves me. Because he finds me worthy.

My feet find the floor just as he hands his vest to Ronnie. I snatch it from his fingers and press it into Cook’s chest. “Put it on,” I demand. My voice shaky. He gives me a curious look, but keeps his arms at his sides. “Just put it on.” I push him a little harder for encouragement, impressed when he stiffens to keep his balance.

Eyes on me, he slides it back over his shoulders. “I would never ask you to do that.” He quirks a brow. “I mean, I wouldn’t say it and actually mean it.” Yeah. That makes no sense. His lips tip in lopsided grin. I fidget with my shirt, trying to figure this out. Searching for a way to be happy and keep my heart safe at the same time. I’m pretty sure it’s not possible. That’s why I have to trust him.

“I’m really scared,” I say, my eyes brimming with tears. My chest tight. My resolve crumbling. He takes a step toward me and slides his hands up my arms. Across my shoulders. Up my neck. Holds my head and tilts it to meet his eyes.

I’ve missed his touch so much. I’ve longed for weeks to feel his hands on me. His mouth on mine. His thumbs on my cheeks to catch my falling tears.

“Don’t cry, gorgeous,” he whispers. “And you don’t have to be scared. I’ve got you.”

He’s got me.

His lips touch mine in a soft, but brief kiss. He pulls away to gaze back down at me. “Say it.”

“I love you.”

“I love you too. More than you could ever know. But I’ll spend forever proving it to you.”

I press my hands against his vest, tightening my fingers into the soft leather. “Why?” I ask on a sniff. “Why were you so willing to give this up for me?”

He kisses me again. My lips. My eyes. Cheeks. The corners of my mouth. Then he looks at me with those warm, blue eyes and gives me his signature heart melting smile. “Because you’re my second chance.”